A friend of mine had this issue this week, and then I did, too. Both of us were working on documents that originated from Arabic-speaking countries, and this is where I usually see this problem. It’s hard to describe, but completely obvious if you’ve ever experienced it: you’re using Track Changes to mark changes in a document, you go to write a comment in a comment balloon / box, and the text runs from right to left instead of left to right. Sometimes even the word order is reversed. It looks something like this:
The cursor is at the wrong end of the line of text, it’s all justified to the right, it shows oddly as you type, and editing it is a nightmare. So how do we change the orientation of the comment text?
Changing the orientation of comment text in Word 2007
What we want to do is change the comment box text from wanting to run right to left to making it want to run left to right. And the easiest way I’ve found to do this is to add a secret little button to your Quick Access Toolbar, then use that to sort out your text. Go to my article on how to add buttons to the Quick Access Toolbar if you need a refresher (or note that you click the down arrow on the QAT at the top of your screen then choose More Commands).
When you get to the part on the Customize Screen menu where you choose the button to add, type L to get near the right place and/or scroll down until you come to Left-to-Right Text Direction and add that to the Quick Access Toolbar.
Now you will have a button on your QAT which looks like a paragraph mark with an arrow next to it. If you hover the mouse cursor over it, it will announce to you that it’s the Left-To-Right Text Direction button. Make sure your typing cursor is in the comment balloon and press this button …
And now your text in your comment balloon should be the right way round (for you):
Please note: you will have to do this for each comment box you create. But it’s only a matter of pressing one additional button, and it WORKS reliably, where fiddling around with the Styles really won’t always work (I know: I’ve been there).
Changing the orientation of comment text in Word 2010
Now, this works just the same in Word 2010, apart from the fact that the button has a different name and a different appearance! Of course!
So when you have reminded yourself how to add buttons to the Quick Access Toolbar if you need a refresher (or note that you click the down arrow on the QAT at the top of your screen then choose More Commands), you will need to start by typing an L and/or scrolling down, but this time you’re looking for Ltr Run.
And when you want to change the orientation of your text in your comment balloon from right-to-left to left-to-right, you’ll need to click on the little green blob (although, again, it will admit that it is the Ltr Run button if hovered over):
Again, please note: you will have to do this for each comment balloon you create. But it’s only a matter of pressing one additional button, and does WORK reliably, where fiddling around with the Styles really won’t always work (I know: I’ve been there in Word 2010, too).
And if you’re using a Mac? Well, apparently you can’t do it, and will need to send it to a friend with a PC. But if you know better, do let me know!
… and if that doesn’t work …
It’s always worth trying copying and pasting your text into a new document. And if that doesn’t work, here are two more methods to try.
Changing the balloons one by one using Style Inspector
Put your cursor in the offending balloon. In the Home tab, go to Styles and click the down arrow in the bottom corner. Then, instead of Manage Styles, click the second button along, Style Inspector:
This will make a little dialogue box come up. Click on the top A button (marked with an arrow) and the Paragraph Formatting box should change to Normal.
Close the box and OK everything else until you’re back with your document, and your comment box should be the right way around! You will need to apply this per comment balloon, but it’s less drastic than this one …
Delete the styles
We also found this more drastic way. Thanks to Mr. Libro for finding this workaround.
Go to the Home tab, click the Styles down arrow and select Manage Styles (the third button):
Put the list of styles into alphabetical order by clicking the dropdown arrow and choosing Alphabetical:
Find your three Comment styles and delete them IN THIS ORDER: Comment Reference, Comment Subject, Comment Text (otherwise Word is liable to crash):
Press Delete then confirm that you’re sure:
You can just go back to the list each time. Watch out – your place in the list may well jump around and you may have to scroll up or down to find your style.
Delete Comment Text as the last one (you will see that the others grey out) …
And then press OK until you’re back at your document. All of your comment boxes will now be the correct way around.
Want even more detail on how to customise your comment boxes? Read my article on customsing comment boxes!
Related posts: What to do if my comment boxes go tiny in Word.
Please note, these hints work with versions of Microsoft Word currently in use – Word 2003, Word 2007 and Word 2010, all for PC. Mac compatible versions of Word should have similar options. Always save a copy of your document before manipulating it. I bear no responsibility for any pickles you might get yourself into!